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“Can a Christian be pro-life personally but pro-choice politically?”

Question: “Can a Christian be pro-life personally but pro-choice politically?”


Answer: Few issues in the United States are as contentious as abortion. One common approach to the controversy attempts to separate moral views from political views with statements such as these:

 

I’m personally against abortion, but I don’t think it should be illegal.

Women should have the right to choose, though I could never have an abortion myself.


Abortion is wrong, but the government should not legislate morality.

We should not force our religious beliefs on other people.

Ordinary citizens might use these statements to avoid an argument. Politicians often use them to pander to pro-life voters while cooperating with pro-abortion voters. At best, such statements are inconsistent. At worst, they are deceptive.

Every law, without exception, is based on some underlying moral principle. Some laws are considered obvious, particularly those that forbid overt harm to others: e.g., laws against theft, fraud, or violence. The biblical worldview indicates that the unborn are innocent human beings. That makes abortion an act of murder. The above statements sound horrific when their practical implications are made clear:

 

I’m personally against murdering children, but I don’t think it should be illegal.

Women should have the right to choose to kill their children, though I could never kill my own.

Killing children is wrong, but the government should not legislate morality.

We should not force our religious beliefs on those who want to kill infants.

One can further understand the problem with this approach by substituting other moral issues. No one claims “immoral, not illegal” should apply to everything, because in some cases it would be absurd. Should it apply to rape? Or assault? Adultery? Saying mean things? Using profanity? The thought exercise reveals differences between individuals, but it also reinforces a truth held universally: some moral principles are worth being enforced by law, even if some people disagree. Every culture grapples with where and how to make that distinction, not whether the distinction should be made.

The controversy is focused on exactly where to draw the line between moral principles that are statutorily enforceable and those that are not. Judgments on gray areas differ from person to person, even among faithful Christians (Romans 14:1–10). There’s wisdom in believing that not every nuance of religious belief should be enforced by secular courts (1 Corinthians 5:9–13). Most Christians recognize the value of some separation between church and state, not least because “the state” will usually be hostile to biblical faith (see John 16:1–4; Acts 5:29; 1 Timothy 2:1–2). Most Christians also realize that they are not called to pursue political dominance but to faithfully make disciples (John 18:36; Matthew 28:19–20).

However, abortion is obviously not on par with things like swearing, drunkenness, or slander. Abortion is not primarily defined on a personal, spiritual level, such as sexual sin or abusing drugs. Nor is it comparable to harming others through deception, fraud, or theft. Properly understood, abortion means killing people: murdering innocent human beings. That’s well beyond the line even secularists draw when it comes to accepting legally enforced moral ideas.

Unjust killing of other people is arguably the clearest, easiest example of something civilized cultures should prohibit. Fine details will always be subject to debate. However, statements such as “I am personally pro-life but politically pro-choice” make no meaningful sense in any worldview, let alone that of a biblical Christian. Christians should unashamedly advocate for the lives of those in the womb, while sharing truth, explaining alternatives, and offering recovery to women pressured to end the lives of their unborn children.

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